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aka THE SECRET OF MARROWBONE, MARROWBONE: THE HAUNTED HOUSE
Directed by Sergio G. Sánchez
Written by Sergio G. Sánchez
Starring George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth, Matthew Stagg, Nicola Harrison, Kyle Soller, Tom Fisher, Myra Kathryn Pearse, Paul Jesson, Robert Nairne
Directed by the writer of THE ORPHANAGE and THE IMPOSSIBLE and produced by the director of those films, MARROWBONE definitely feels like a distant relative of the excellent ghost story THE ORPHANAGE (which if you haven’t seen, you should stop right now and go see it). Filled with a special kind of horror that transcends time and genre, MARROWBONE is an excellent fairy tale/ghost story that deserves to be mentioned amongst the best of the best in its genre.
A family relocates from the city to a small farm in the countryside, running away from their past. When the mother succumbs to illness, it’s up to the eldest son Jack (George MacKay) to take care of the rest of the family in secret until he can legally parent them when he turns 18. But it is soon clear that the family cannot outrun their past and in a tale that skips forward and backward in time. The viewer gets to know and fall in love and root for this family to survive despite great odds against them. But what is crawling around in the attic of the home? Is it a ghost or something far more twisted and sinister? As the city auditor Porter (Kyle Soller) looks for proof that the deceased mother is still alive and capable of taking care of the younger siblings, strange things begin to occur throughout the house suggesting that all is not right with the family that has taken up in the Marrowbone estate. There is also a romantic aspect to this story as Jack has begun a romance with a local librarian Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who also has snagged the interest of Porter cementing his position as threat to the neatly stacked house of cards the Marrowbone family has put together.
MARROWBONE plays out like a period piece fairy tale, not unlike THE OTHERS, THE ORPHANAGE, PAN’S LABYRINTH, FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC, and THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE before it and I feel it is strong enough to be mentioned in the same sentence with those classics. Everything feels amazingly authentic from the homey and ramshackle nature of the Marrowbone house with all of its twisting corridors and staircases to its idyllic countryside with which the story takes place. Everything have a sort of fantasy feel to it, as if this is from a storybook dusted off from years ago. While there is a macabre twist to everything, with the dark halls and mysterious rooms of the Marrowbone house, there is also a strong sense of family acting as the backbone for the entire story. This is what makes the film so special—it’s wholesome heart and how it casts familial strength in such twisted ways.
MARROWBONE has an abundance of talented actors to brag about. The film’s leads George McKay and Anna Taylor Joy portray likable, yet tragic characters destined to live with madness and murder all around them. You root for these two characters to survive despite the odds against them because they are so wonderfully realized. Kyle Soller plays a great foil for these two lovebirds. His motivation is pure at first, pursuing Allie as a love interest and in any other story, he might be the hero—it’s just that here, he is not the right match for Allie and that twists him into something less than heroic. You’ve seen Charlie Heaton and Mia Goth in STRANGER THINGS and A CURE FOR WELLNESS, respectively. Both actors are going to have great careers and feel right at home with the fairy tale horror aspects of this film. Across the board, everyone delivers a strong performance.
MARROWBONE is a film that one can’t forget. There might be some wobbling in the storytelling department during the climax of the film, but by the end of it all, I felt both emotionally fulfilled and drained at the highs and lows this film takes one on. This is an extremely formidable effort by director Sergio G. Sánchez who seems to have a gift at stories that straddle the line between horror and fantasy. MARROWBONE is chilling, clever, and equal parts heart-warming and heart-wrenching. Just one fantastic piece of cinema.
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